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Donskoi scores OT winner as Sharks win first Cup final home game in team history



The first Stanley Cup final home game in San Jose Sharks history ended in celebration.

Joonas Donskoi scored the Game 3 winner 12:18 into overtime as the Sharks topped the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2 at SAP Center on Saturday night. The goal, which saw Donskoi beat Matt Murray high at a bad angle, gave the Sharks their first lead of the series and first overtime win of the playoffs. They now trail the Penguins 2-1 in the best-of-seven series with Game 4 ahead on Monday night.

Justin Braun and Joel Ward found the back of the net for San Jose, with Joe Thornton adding two assists. Martin Jones stopped 40-of-42 shots.

Ben Lovejoy and Patric Hornqvist scored for the Penguins, while Murray made 23 saves.

San Jose was greeted by a loud and predictably enthusiastic crowd, mindful of the club’s long history without an appearance in the final. Sharks players received a thunderous ovation as they skated through the massive Shark head which adorns their entrance onto the ice and were cheered passionately throughout the evening.

It was the quick-starting Penguins who got on the board first, however, for the third straight game to start the series.

Reacting quickly to a Sharks clearing attempt that caromed off the sideboards, Lovejoy fired a weak slapshot from the right point that appeared to hit the left shinpad of San Jose defenceman Roman Polak before beating Jones.

The dominant first-period team in Games 1 and 2, Pittsburgh again controlled that battle early, landing the first seven shots of Game 3.

San Jose didn’t get its first shot on goal until more than eight minutes had passed. The Sharks did, however, even the score at 1-1 just more than four minutes after Lovejoy.

Braun, who scored the game-tying goal in the final minutes of regulation in Game 2, got on the board again, his point shot sailing through a maze of traffic to beat Murray. The Penguins rookie goaltender didn’t see the shot, only glancing over his left shoulder when the puck was entering the goal.

Braun had only four goals in the regular season and none in the post-season prior to Game 2. He was set up on the play by Thornton, who landed his first point of the series with an assist.

The Sharks fed off the energy of the crowd and controlled play from there, though they were unable to put many shots on Murray. The Penguins blocked 12 attempts in the first frame and 38 overall, curtailing San Jose’s engaged efforts.

Shots, in fact, were 12-3 in favour of Pittsburgh at one point late in the period despite the Sharks push.

With control of the matchups on home-ice, San Jose managed to hold Sidney Crosby and the Penguins top line in check during the first 20 minutes. Crosby and linemates, Conor Sheary and Hornqvist, were contained by the Sharks defensive pair of Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Braun, and held without a shot in the opening period.

Hornqvist had the unit’s first shot of the game with six minutes left in the second.

San Jose had the bulk of chances in the middle frame, including a Logan Couture shot off the post and an opportunity in tight from the top scorer among defencemen in the playoffs, Brent Burns.

Creeping deep into the Penguins zone, Burns was set up from behind the goal by Melker Karlsson, replacing injured winger Tomas Hertl on San Jose’s top line.

The Crosby line broke through in the final minute of the second with Vlasic and Braun on the bench, a crushing blow to the Sharks. After a Burns passing attempt failed to make it to a teammate along the wall, the puck made its way to Lovejoy, who again fired from the point. His shot was redirected into the goal by Hornqvist, his eighth goal of the post-season and first of the series.

San Jose got its best opportunity to tie the game minutes into the third when Thornton was clipped with a high-stick by Nick Bonino, who drew blood and a four-minute penalty.

Murray shined though. A clear chance for Patrick Marleau was denied as was a shot from Thornton and a redirect attempt from Donskoi.

It wasn’t until one second remained on the man advantage that Ward’s blast beat Murray. The play started when Thornton picked off a Penguins pass in the defensive zone and fed it up ice. Ward took a pass as he entered the Pittsburgh zone, wound up, and snuck it through Murray, who got a piece of the shot but not enough.

The score remained even until overtime with both teams managing opportunities early and often in the extra frame, including a Thornton blast that sailed high and Bonino rebound attempt that trickled wide.

Thornton had at least two more good chances to score, rounding out an impactful Game 3 performance following two quiet games to start the series.

The Sharks still face slim odds. Thirty-three of the 36 teams to win the first two games on home-ice, as the Penguins did, have gone on to capture the Cup.

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Up and Coming Sports Stars to Look Out for in 2020



Every year, a raft of exciting new players come onto the scene across all of the major US sports. With the MLS season getting underway and the NFL and MLB drafts not too far away, now is a great time to look at the young sports stars that could have a very bright future ahead of them, and the ones that are already proving they are destined for greatness.

Theo Bair (MLS)

This MLS season is looking like it could be one of the best yet, with David Beckham’s Inter Miami team adding some extra dazzle to the league. Whilst Beckham might be able to attract a lot of new players to his MLS team, there are a lot of young stars on their way through such as Theo Bair at Vancouver Whitecaps. Bair has already made an impact on the first team and after impressing at under-20 and under-23 level for the national team, he has made two appearances for the senior team, well before his 21st birthday. This year could see Bair make a real name for himself in the MLS.

Source: Pixabay

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (MLB)

Montreal-born Vladimir Guerrero Jr has one MLB season under his belt but it looks like the best is still yet to come from him at the Blue Jays. He was heavily backed to take the league by storm but he failed to live up to the hype that surrounded him. Without the pressure of being the top-ranked prospect, this season could see Guerrero play with some weight lifted off his shoulders. He has been working very hard on his fitness over the offseason, something that his manager Montoyo has been quick to comment upon.

Baseball by andrewmalone, on Flickr

Baseball” (CC BY 2.0) by andrewmalone

Connor McDavid (NHL)

McDavid has already established him as a top hockey player but at 23, he has the potential to go on to do so much more. The player was born in Ontario and was the first overall draft pick, showing how much expectation was already on him at that stage but he has gone on to prove that he is one of the best players in the NHL. McDavid could go on to be one the NHL’s best-ever hockey players and this season could be the year that he shows the world, not just the NHL.

Chuba Hubbard (College Football)

The Oklahoma State Cowboys running back has been making the headlines for several years now. He continues to improve and grab more attention for his impressive stats and performances. He was close to being a sprinter and nearly made the Canadian Olympic team before switching over to football. He is passing up the 2020 NFL draft to play his senior season at Cowboys. He should give them a good chance of winning the College Football Championship, though they’re trailing at the seventh spot in the latest American football odds at +2400.00, with Clemson as the current betting favorites.

2020 will definitely be a very exciting time with some of these young stars looking to breakthrough in their respective sports and show the world what they are capable of.

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Bob Baffert is back at the Kentucky Derby – and looking to break the Curse of Apollo



Bob Baffert is back at the Kentucky Derby with early favourite Justify after watching the race from his sofa in Southern California last year.

The Hall of Fame trainer’s ability to produce Derby contenders year after year is an enviable feat and why his absence a year ago stood out. It was just his second since 2009 and occurred because his lone candidate got hurt.

Baffert will saddle Justify and 30-to-1 shot Solomini in Saturday’s Derby.

Justify is one of the greenest colts Baffert has brought to Churchill Downs. He’s won all three of his starts by a combined 19 lengths. If Justify wins, he’d be the first to do so since Apollo in 1882 without racing as a two-year-old.

“The thing about the Kentucky Derby, you have to have the right horse. It just happens. You can’t force it,” Baffert said. “All of a sudden, you have good horses and you’re there. So I’ve been really fortunate to have some really good horses.”

Baffert’s four victories are tied for second-most in Derby history. He’s finished second three times, too, including in 2012 with Bodemeister, also the last time he had two starters in the same year.

Like Justify, Bodemeister didn’t race as a two-year-old. He set a blistering pace and led the Derby until the final 150 yards when I’ll Have Another overtook him to win by 1 1/2 lengths.

Magnum Moon, the 6-to-1 third choice, also is unbeaten and didn’t run as a two-year-old.

“It’s going to happen,” Baffert said, referring to the curse being broken. “Whether it happens this year or whatever, but it will happen because Bodemeister almost got away with it. But I don’t really worry about that.”

Baffert almost had a third starter this year until McKinzie developed a hind-end issue that knocked him off the Derby trail.

“When McKinzie got hurt, I wanted to throw up,” he said. “I really think McKinzie would probably be second choice here. We’d really have a 1-2 here.”

Justify cleared the biggest pre-Derby hurdle by drawing the No. 7 post. Jockey Mike Smith can use the colt’s early speed to position him well for the long run to the chaotic first turn. Solomini ended up in the No. 17 post; no horse has ever won from there.

Baffert turned 65 in January, making him eligible for Medicare and retirement at most other jobs. However, he entertains no such thoughts.

“I work hard at it. I just don’t give up,” the white-haired trainer said. “I’m constantly meeting people. They’re sending me horses. If you don’t have success, you’re not going to get those opportunities.”

After a successful run in the quarter horse ranks, Baffert switched to thoroughbreds. He started with one horse.

“After 25 years, I’m finally getting horses that I don’t have to buy,” he said. “The big guys are sending me horses.”

None was bigger than American Pharoah in 2015. The colt swept the Derby, Preakness and Belmont to become racing’s first Triple Crown winner in 37 years.

Baffert has compared Justify to American Pharoah, citing the colt’s imposing physical presence and big stride. Still, Justify has yet to encounter the kind of traffic the Derby’s 20-horse stampede creates and the talent as he’ll run against on Saturday.

“I’d rather have a really talented horse than one who’s seasoned and just on par with the rest of them,” Baffert said.

Early on, Baffert knew Justify had the goods.

“The first time I worked him at Santa Anita, I knew he was a really good horse,” he said. “The track was really deep that morning, and he went around there effortlessly. His first race, he ran incredibly and showed how special he was.”

That kind of intuition is what separates Baffert from his rivals, fellow Hall of Famer trainer D. Wayne Lukas said.

“Bob’s got a great feel for it,” he said.

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Matthews ready to return to Maple Leafs lineup after missing a month



NASHVILLE — The hurtin’ tune that Auston Matthews has been singing for the past four weeks finally can be put in the remainder bin in Music City.

The Maple Leafs’ top centre on Wednesday declared himself set to return to the lineup after recovering from a right shoulder injury.

Wonderful timing, of course, considering the Leafs will take on the No. 1 club in the National Hockey League, the Nashville Predators, on Thursday night.

“In my mind, I think I’m ready to go and taking it as I’m getting ready to play (Thursday),” Matthews said after resuming his normal role, between William Nylander and Zach Hyman, during practice at Bridgestone Arena.

“It felt good, nice to get in all the reps and everything. (Wednesday) was a good step forward in that process, going through the line rushes.”

It seemed probable that the Leafs also will have defenceman Nikita Zaitsev, who missed the past five games as he recovered from an illness, against Nashville. Zaitsev was paired with Jake Gardiner, his regular partner, at practice.

For Matthews, it has been 10 games as a spectator with his latest injury, his third of the 2017-18 regular season after he missed four games in November with a back issue and then sat for six in December because of a concussion.

Thursday will mark four weeks since Matthews was hurt when he was sandwiched by the New York Islanders’ Cal Clutterbuck and Adam Pelech in a game at the Air Canada Centre.

A major bonus for Matthews in his recovery has been the fact he has been able to skate though much of his recuperation. That was not the case when he was out with his previous two injuries.

It’s worth noting that Matthews scored two goals versus the Montreal Canadiens upon returning on Nov. 18 from his back injury; in his first two games upon coming back from a concussion, he scored a goal in each.

Mike Babcock said a final decision on the participation of Matthews and Zaitsev against the Predators would be made on Thursday morning, but the Leafs coach was talking as though it would be a rubber stamp.

“This is going to be the best opportunity for (Matthews) because he has been able to skate and compete,” Babcock said. “The other times he was not able to do anything.

“To get him back … it’s still going to be going way faster than he has been practising, so there is going to be an adjustment period, but he’s a good player and he will figure it out.”

Defenceman Morgan Rielly didn’t think Matthews will take long to find his footing. Rielly missed six games in late January/early February with an arm injury, so knows what Matthews could be feeling.

“You’re nervous and you just want to get back into it,” Rielly said. “You play your first shift a bit hesitant, but after that it’s important you get back to yourself.

“It’s never easy, but Auston is one of those guys that I will imagine it won’t take long for him to get back into a rhythm.”

And there’s the trickle-down effect through the forward lines with Matthews in uniform.

“Guys are used to playing with certain players and when everyone is healthy, I think you get better chemistry throughout the entire lineup,” centre Nazem Kadri said. “Certain guys don’t have to play with different guys constantly and it’s just more of a set group, so I think it’s going to help us.”

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